Naperville's Fort Hill brings 'big deal' fitness opportunities
Naperville residents, get ready to sweat.
Anyone eager to flex their indoor workout muscle now has 79,575 square feet of shiny, new workout space allowing them to sweat it out on courts, a track, treadmills, cycles, weight machines, even playground equipment and a gymnastics foam pit.
The Fort Hill Activity Center opened at 5 a.m. Tuesday in advance of a grand opening celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 20 Fort Hill Drive. The $24 million facility, in the works since November 2013, is the Naperville Park District's largest project in its 50-year history and the answer to frequent public calls for more places to be active indoors during harsh Chicagoland winters.
"This is a big deal for the community," Executive Director Ray McGury said about the project that gives the park district its first indoor basketball courts, fitness center and walking/jogging track. "This is what we do."
What residents can do at the activity center is limited by little other than the fact the facility does not have a swimming pool. The versatility of options shows exactly how it was planned -- to welcome everyone, include everyone and give everyone options to get fit.
"This will truly be one of the park district's first facilities where families can come, and while kids are participating in one activity, parents can participate in something else," Brad Wilson, director of recreation, said. "It truly will appeal to all different ages, from the indoor playground to activities for seniors."
Babies as young as 3 months can be watched in a child care room. Kiddos not much older can climb and slide on the indoor playground called, appropriately, The Fort. Seniors can walk the track in safety and warmth, minus the temptation of window shopping that comes with being a mallwalker. People with disabilities can compete in wheelchair basketball, join a Rec and Roll day program from Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, play bunco or join a Special Olympics floor hockey team.
Everyone in between has an array of options: basketball, volleyball, pickleball, badminton, gymnastics, spinning, personal training, group fitness classes, treadmill runs, elliptical machine workouts, weight training, birthday parties or community meetings.
During the grand opening, the majority of the activities will be available for a test drive.
"We're telling people, 'Come dressed to participate,'" McGury said. "We want you to come into the fitness room and play around. We want you to go into the gym and try wheelchair basketball and see what it's like."
Inside, the Fort Hill Activity Center is open and bright, decorated mainly in shades of gray with accents of teal. Natural light streams in from large windows in every major space and from 40 circular skylights in the gym and fitness center.
"I could turn all the lights off and we would still have enough light in here," Wilson said.
The windows and solar panels atop the roof will lower electricity costs. Plus, the windows offer outdoor views, even for a facility designed to help encourage fitness away from the elements.
"Half of the track is actually full-size windows almost down to the floor," Wilson said, "so you get a real sense of the outdoors."
Park board commissioners say they're eager to see what residents think of the activity center, especially as the seasons begin to turn toward the cold and dreary.
"It won't be too long before people are actively looking for inside space to go and have some recreation and socialize and just have a good time," park board Vice President Mike Reilly said. "There has been nothing like this in Naperville."
Loosely modeled after the Fountain View Recreation Center in Carol Stream and designed by the same company, Williams Architects, the facility features four high school-sized basketball courts and a large gymnastics space on the first floor, along with a cafe, four multipurpose rooms, weight training equipment, locker rooms and the indoor playground. On the second floor is a track where nine laps equals a mile, three group fitness studios and cardio equipment.
Park district leaders have failed twice in the past dozen or so years to garner community support for an indoor recreation center, but with Fort Hill, they've been hearing enthusiasm all around -- from parents, people with disabilities, seniors and average athletes who aren't at the elite level pursued by some in Naperville.
"We've had a lot of fits and starts in our quest to add indoor space," park board Commissioner Gerry Heide said. "I'm just excited about the fact that we were able to do it successfully."
Favorite featuresWith nearly 80,000 square feet of recreation space, the Fort Hill Activity Center offers plenty to spark excitement. Here's what's piqued the interest of several park and community leaders.
Rich Janor, park board president:
"The walking track for our seniors is one of the amenities I find particularly valuable. I'm also really excited about the dedicated room for the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association."
Mike Reilly, park board vice president:
"One of the things that I'm glad to bring online to the community is the walking and jogging track. People in this community, many of them seniors, but not all, don't have a place to go just to walk when the weather is either inclement or cold. It's a very basic thing having a track like that, but we really think it's going to be very actively used."
Bill Eagan, park board commissioner:
"For the general public, my vote is for the indoor playground. My 4-year-old can't wait to get his hands on that."
Marie Todd, park board commissioner:
"I think everything that's in there will meet a need -- from the multipurpose rooms for arts and crafts and dance to basketball courts and volleyball and the fitness center and walking track."
Kirsten Young, park board commissioner:
"Indoor gym space is at a premium in Naperville, so I think having the basketball courts, the open gym space and the flexibility that gives is really needed."
Gerry Heide, park board commissioner:
"We're delivering a first-class facility within our budget. We've got first-class fitness equipment. The kids' play area is amazing. The gym is going to be huge in terms of programmable space. There's so many things about it that to me are very exciting."
Jim Ensign, park board commissioner:
"There are some really nice meeting rooms on the second floor west side of the building. Certainly the cafe and the fitness center are a neat combination."
Nancy Miner, WDSRA superintendent of recreation:
"This will be a third location (in Naperville) for programming for WDSRA families, which is really exciting. We're currently fairly full with registration, but we still have some openings."
Karen Courney, Naperville senior task force co-chairwoman:
"It may sound simple, but I'm most excited about that indoor track. The seniors will have someplace to go and walk in the winter and it'll be safe. This is going to be great."